From time to time man always questions laid down rules and ask: why? This could be the case with the canary breeder’s first commandment, i.e. always pair yellow to buff. Of course this asks the question why.
When we consider, man-made, domesticated live stock alongside their wild counterparts the differences in most cases are breathtaking. Whether man has improved this stock or not is another moot point. In this article we will be considering only the Gloster Fancy Canaries and their wild ancestors.
Wild canaries are breeding as nature intended with only the strong surviving. No guiding hand telling which cock to pair to which hen or trying to change the phenotype of the birds. It is only when man began to domesticate the canary and think about fancies and fads that the canary began to have feather problems. In its wild state nature has given the canary its very being, its shape, its colour, its feather, everything is geared to how nature intended. However, when man begins to change nature he alters the balance which nature has taken thousands of years to evolve.
For every positive we have a negative and so it is with feather in our canaries. Nature balances this with unselective breeding. When man decided to change the appearance of his canaries he immediately began to create problems, one of which was related to feathers. By selective breeding man began to alter all aspects of his canaries. He wished for, larger birds, clear birds, crested birds, variegated birds, etc, and because of this he also changed the feather. Mother Nature had always insisted on an intermediate feather but man discovered by honing in on the extremes of feather he could change the outline of his birds as well as creating different types and breeds.
The creating of any breed is a move away from nature and as we have discovered this creates problems. The Gloster Fancy Canary is a short, cobby bird, well filled around the neck and shoulders, and in this lies our problem. This move away from nature to create our Gloster Fancy has given us an inherent problem which must always be addressed. If we take nature beyond her limits she will always say stop, and if we proceed past this red light we will be courting danger. There now seems to be very little room for manoeuvre when we see our leading Glosters on the show bench. We will not be improving the Gloster Fancy by trying to enlarge the frame by pulling more feather onto it, i.e. a broader softer feather, we are at a limit. When breeding Gloster Canaries we need to aim for that which nature intended while keeping in mind the standard of excellence of the breed.
A negative must always have a positive, or put another way, everything has an opposite. By this law of nature, and that is what it is, we must always be aware of our created problems through selective breeding and take a check. Man created this feather rule in canaries of always pairing yellow to buff, it is our only way of balancing nature in a captive environment, but once we overstep the “bench mark” by pairing like to like too often we will be ravaged by Mother Nature’s revenge.
It is not by chance that the best of our breed are always holding the middle ground when it comes to feather type. We as Gloster breeders must understand the rules of nature if we are to keep our breed at the forefront of the “Canary World”. For to move headlong down a straight path is not always the progressive route. Progress comes more in the shape of a “Pigs Tail” which slowly curves its way to the front.
For many fanciers the beauty of the Gloster Fancy has been its cobbiness, coupled with a jaunty and lively action. The crest adornment has always attracted everyone to the breed and the consort has given us a plain head that displays all of the qualities of some of our larger breeds in the smaller bird. Where we can move forward is the quest for greater depth of colour together with the correct feather. This is not easy as we are always coming head to head with Mother Nature who will always tell us when we have reached our “bench mark”.
The Gloster Fancy is a man-made canary and we must realise this if we are to succeed in keeping the breed relatively free from feather problems. We simply cannot over-feather our Glosters and expect nature to sanction this without a fight. We have a difficult breed to try and perfect so let us all be aware of the problems that can occur and work within nature’s guidelines.